Dakar: Team Rally Pan America Atar rest day report

Rest Day in Atar We've run 7 stages, with 8 competitive stages to go. Casey is in 33rd place, and the rest of our riders are still in it with one exception. Tim Hall from Heartland Dakar crashed and broke his ankle and dislocated his hip in ...

Rest Day in Atar

We've run 7 stages, with 8 competitive stages to go. Casey is in 33rd place, and the rest of our riders are still in it with one exception. Tim Hall from Heartland Dakar crashed and broke his ankle and dislocated his hip in stage 6.. He was flown to the Canary Islands where he is resting comfortably. We all wish him well. His words to his mechanic were, 'don't worry Jim, the bike is fine'.

We are now in Atar, for the rest day. We have a day off, but not for the mechanics. They are working hard rebuilding the bikes for the second half of the race. Tomorrow the riders take off for another 2 day marathon, where they don't see the support crew - and the support crew takes off for a two day 1000 mile journey to Nema.

***

Charlie compiled a bunch of quotes from both team members and other Americans over here...

Casey McCoy:

"As well organized as the rally is, I was surprised how difficult it is to get your timecard in the early morning. I've had to elbow my way to the front of the line not to miss my start time. I'm not used to the European interpretation of waiting in line.

Got a little lost yesterday in the sandstorm. I couldn't see the landmarks in the roadbook like mountains, etc. The riding has generally not been challenging. I'm concentrating on preserving the bike and my body" (Note: Casey's bike comes in pristine every day, and he doesn't seem particulary taxed, so this is working.)

The bike handles great. The SPS suspension is incredible. I've had minor fuel problems, running out of gas in the rear tanks early on in the deep sand. It sucks a lot of fuel in the sand. The dunes were very soft, but OK so long as you keep moving. I saw people having problems when they stopped at the top of the dunes and sank. I try to approach the tops at an angle so I don't fall into a hole on the other side, if there is one. Being able to adjust right at the peak is critical. The wind hurt some yesterday, but it helped a bit because it helped us see the peaks, which can be hard to see in very bright sunlight.

Hello to Becky and the dogs and my friends and family. I'm doing fine, plugging along just like we talked about. Planning for a decent finish."

***

Niles Follin: (TRPA mechanic)

"This is my second Dakar. This year, we have less riders to take care of. And it is much more windy! It is a little easier to know and understand what is going to happen, because I have experience.

Mauritania is a shithole. Yesterday we drove from SewerRat to CrapTar.

I felt absolutely terrible for everyone on the team when we heard that Jonah's bike was out. We heard at the same time that Elmer had died that day, so that made it much worse. Now I'm working on Steve LaRoza's bike. Full service today and repair the broken exhaust. We're going to use Monster's machine shop and welder to repair the steering damper mount.

Today is the first day I've brushed my teeth since Portugal because I finally found my toothbrush and it no longer tastes like a cat shit in my mouth."

***

Charlie Rauseo: (TRPA manager and driver of assistance Ford #726)

"The good news is that the team is performing flawlessly. Everyone is pulling in the same direction and we have some very good experience now. This really helps when big jobs need to be done quickly. I don't think many teams can do a better job of supporting bikes in the Dakar right now.

The awful news is Elmer's death. We all expect people to die in the Dakar. That is just the nature of the beast. We also know it could be one of us. Still, the news gutted everyone. Nobody could think of anything else for quite a while.

Jonah's withdrawal is also a bit of bad news, but he is OK and headed home, we think. The team had to continue because we are supporting other riders, so Jonah had to find his own way home from Oarzazate. I feel sorry for the people who need to sit next to him on the airplane to Seattle. Jonah hasn't called us since he was stuck on the stage, so we're not sure where he is. Jonah, if you get a chance, call either Robb or me on the sat phone or send us an email to our race email addresses.

Hi to Jing and the pooches. I miss you."

***

Robb McElroy: (driver, TRPA assistance truck #727)

"This year we had mud! Who'd have thought? A couple of days ago we drove through mud in the dark in the middle of the desert, after all the race vehicles had been through. It was chewed up and deep and fun. The F-350 is awesome as long as you keep the pedal to the floor. We have to go through everything. Sand, rocks, mud. The truck is way better than last year.

Now that Jonah is out, we have some spare time, parts and mechanics, so we've picked up a few orphan riders. Everyone is definitely bummed that Jonah is out. We spent a year trying to give Jonah a shot to win it, but that didn't work out. We're already talking about next year.

I do not want to say hi to anyone in particular."

***

Steve LaRoza:

"Hello to my family in Spain, traveling while I am down here, and everyone back at home who has been watching.

I'm feeling really good, no pain, no nothing. My jaw is feeling good now. I broke my helmet on day 3 taking a shot from the bike's dashboard. No crash, just got smacked.

The sand dunes here are silty, where ours in the US are sandy. So, I am surprised by how soft they are. It takes so much longer, with so much more wear on the bike and the body to get through them.

On day 5, coming into the bivouac in Oarzazate, I thought my rally was over. My original support truck was gone, with my spare motor, and my first motor was making a loud noise from the crank. The sand on day 3 was softer than yesterday, and this really stressed my motor. Niles troubleshot the motor and decided I needed a new one. Luckily, TRPA had an extra motor. (Note: we had one because Jonah had retired.) So, I was able to continue with this new motor. The new motor feels stronger than the original.

So far so good. Physically I feel good. It is mentally harder than physically. The riding is not too tough. Now all we have to do is trail ride to the end. Chris Jones and I are going to team up and ride all the way to the finish together."

***

Andy Grider (Monster Hummer navigator for Robbie Gordon):

"Everything is going great.  Our original plan was to get to rest day and
start the race here.  Our goal is to win 2 more stages before Dakar.  The
Monster Hummer is awesome.  No issues with it now.

Navigation was difficult yesterday. I had a hard time.

At the beginning, we got bad gas with rust in it, causing us to lose 3 hours with clogged fuel injectors.

Our support team really needed this rest day. They got great sleep last night and look fresh today.

We had 2 weeks to get Monster logos on all our stuff. We got it done, big rush.

In a car, mentally it is the same as on a bike, but physically it is much easier in a car. No AC in the car, or heat, though. This is when the rally gets tough. People are going to drop out, but we are going to try to stay steady and arrive in Dakar in the top 10."

***

Chris Blais: (KTM Red Bull)

"I'm in 5th now, about 15 minutes out from 3rd. So, a podium is definitely possible for me. To get there, I just need to finish the race and keep riding the way I have been. Nobody expected an American to do well. I think I've been a little smarter than some of the Europeans, conserving the bike and myself. I usually do better in the second half, so I'm looking forward to the rest of the rally.

Great weather we're having today. The sandstorm isn't too bad yet."

***

Gary Williams (TRPA mechanic for Klaus Pelzmann and Paul Broome, riding in Ford #726)

"You can see the Dakar on the TV, but you can't understand the enormity of the event until you are here, the huge amount of people involved. I was sick for a few days. I'm not sure why, maybe missing Australian beer. ed: Gary is from Australia. I'm still not OK, but I'm hanging in there.

I've not experienced the amount of traveling, with a couple of hours of sleep, then driving again. I didn't realize that we would be traveling by air a few times. ed: the F350 got airborne a few times.

Klaus's bike is great, he's been really kind to it.

Paul's is going well considering it is the first time Paul has built a rally bike. Mainly the navigation brackets and rear fuel tank mounting have broken. The XR itself is strong.

Hello to Sandy, Ben, and Evie."

***

Jim Radcliff: (Heartland Dakar mechanic for Tim Hall, who is out of the rally now)

"I wish Tim was still here on the rally, and that we were working on our bike. But, I'm relieved that he should make a full recovery. He had a great ride, put in a good effort, and we had a good time, creating lots of memories. I'm looking forward to helping out the rest of the team. I can also now help out Chris Jones, who was left without a mechanic when his support truck left the rally.

The Dakar has been more fun and more intense that I could have expected. Also more work and less sleep. Twice I stayed up all night to get Tim's bike ready in time. I was surprised at the intensity and difficulty of the assistance class. There is another challenge that doesn't get covered in the press. I had no idea the assistance trucks have roadbooks and challenging off-road driving. The assistance stages are beautiful and difficult, requiring good driving and navigation skills, which has been really fun for me to see."

-credit: trpa

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Casey McCoy , Chris Blais , Charlie Rauseo , Andy Grider , Gary Williams , Chris Jones
Teams Williams